Hundreds of protesters gathered to occupy Seoul in front of the Deoksu Palacein the capital on Monday. They came to express solidarity with the second global day of action called by the Occupy movement.
The international movement of the 99 percent was born a little less than two months ago, on 15 October.
Occupy Seoul was one of many occupations on that day. It carried slogans such as “The angry 99 percent against the rich 1 percent!” and “Free education and healthcare for the 99 percent!”
It helped to revitalise the campaign against the neoliberal Korea-US Free Trade Agreement that was railroaded into force by the ruling party and the Lee Myung-bak government.
Thousands of people filled the streets to protest against the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement. This act will wreak havoc on the lives of working people, not only in South Korea and the US, but also in the wider world.
On 30 November, more than 400,000 people rallied for the cancellation of the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement.
Since then, Occupy Seoul galvanised the anger and discontent of the 99 percent in South Korea.
It is reported that 102 cities in 24 countries participated in the Occupy movement’s global day of action on Monday.
The groups making up Occupy Seoul include human rights campaigners, LGBT campaigners, the poor, people evicted from their homes, and migrant workers. Also involved are patients, activists for free healthcare, students demanding free education, and working people who want to change from the current failed system.
Michel Caturina, chair of the Migrant Trade Union, told protesters that the international Occupy movements, including London and Madrid, had supported the International Day of Migrants and Refugees. Occupy Seoul was invited to join the action in solidarity.
Michel said, “The reason the 1 percent succeed in ruling over the 99 percent is because they divide us along race, religion, gender and all sorts of things.
“When we are divided we are weak. But when we unite as one we can defeat the 1 percent and change the world.”
The president of Dongguk University student council came on stage to talk about their university occupation against marketisation.
A human rights activist exposed the horrible treatment of homeless and evicted people. She said, “When a society lets people wander the streets all their lives and the only time they find a place of their own is when they die and are put in their grave, that society is for and of the 1 percent.
A worker from the SsangYong car plant also spoke. He received a loud cheer from the protesters when he announced that they have not given up on their fight and will organise a “Tent of Hope” occupation against the company for not following the agreement to reinstate the laid-off workers.
Kim Yeong-hun, Chairperson of Korean Confederation of Trade Unions also brought solidarity to Occupy Seoul. He said that the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement is now the biggest threat to people’s livelihood.
The Korea-US Free Trade Agreement represents neoliberalism. He called on the have-nots to take a stand and act to make a new world.
Jeon Ji-yoon, from socialist group All Together, said, “We are just beginning the struggle against the system. We have a long way to go.
“The 99 percent movement that started from the revolution in Egypt and spread to Occupy Wall Street and the university occupations is now fuelling Russia’s post-election anti-corruption movement.
“Karl Marx showed us that capitalism is a society where the 99 percent will confront the 1 percent and that to do this workers of the world must unite.
“The only thing to lose is the system for the 1 percent, but we have a new society controlled by the 99 percent to gain.”
After the rally, all the protestors joined a candlelight vigil against the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement. Protesters chanted “Capitalism is not working”, “We are the 99 percent against the 1 percent”.
The coalition of labour organisations and civic groups that formed Occupy Seoul will continue to build solidarity with the 99 percent of the world and the global Occupy movement.
CJ Park and Jo Ik-jin are members of All Together, a socialist group in Korea